UC Irvine will be the home of a new center for research into autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders, thanks to a first-of-its kind public/private partnership between the William & Nancy Thompson Family Foundation and Children and Families Commission of Orange County. The two organizations are contributing $14.8 million to establish the center, which will be home to a group of medical experts specializing in autism and neurodevelopment.
The new Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Southern California at UCI will be led by Dr. Joseph Donnelly, a pediatric neurologist at UC Irvine and CHOC Children’s and director of For OC Kids Neurodevelopmental Center, a community medical care coordinator in assessment, diagnosis, and support for families with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The Center for Autism will be modeled after and build upon the example of the For OC Kids Center, with the goal of providing full diagnosis and treatment to individuals with autism from birth up to 22 years old.
“We intend to create a nationally recognized treatment and research center that provides help and hope for children and families living with autism spectrum and neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Bill Thompson, chairman of the William & Nancy Thompson Family Foundation. “Nothing like this currently exists in Southern California and we are absolutely committed to transforming the diagnosis and treatment of autism.”
The Thompson Family Foundation has been a leading philanthropic supporter of autism programs, research and treatment across the country since its founding in 2005. The Foundation also established the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri, which will be a research partner with the Center for Autism in the coming months and years.
The public/private partnership created between the Thompson Family Foundation and the Children and Families Commission of O.C. is providing $14 million in initial funding to the UC Irvine School of Medicine. The funds are comprised of a $7 million grant from the Commission to be used for evaluation, treatment and diagnosis, and a $7 million grant from the Thompson Family Foundation for both research and clinical services.
“More than a decade ago, the Children and Families Commission helped UC Irvine and CHOC launch For OC Kids to offer young children with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions a path to early intervention and treatment,” said UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake. “Today, thanks to ongoing Commission support and a tremendous catalytic investment from the Thompson family, The Center for Autism is engaging in an extraordinary collaboration that will soon expand and enhance local services. At the same time, we are building bridges to novel university research that will give families here and around the world new hope for a cure.”
A second grant from the Thompson Family Foundation of $800,000 will fund two collaborations between Chapman University’s College of Educational Studies and the Center for Autism. The Family-Schools Intervention Team acts as an advocate for children and an intermediary between the family and school system. Further support for the venture comes from CHOC Children’s, which has made a 5-year pledge to pay for several key positions and fund rehabilitation services at the Center for Autism.
“The growing rate of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders is staggering and has a profound impact on families and communities,” said Sandra Barry, chair of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and former superintendent of Anaheim City Schools. “The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Southern California will be at the vanguard in diagnosis and treatment in an effort to help people and families that are affected by these disorders.”
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